Tuesday, March 18, 2008

March 18 Shero: Agnes Smedley

(1892 - May 8, 1950)

Agnes Smedley was an European-American feminist, radical writer dedicated to the oppressed, novelist, foreign correspondent, supporter of the Indian and Chinese independence movements, and constantly targeted and smeared by the US and British governments and media as a communist spy.

Born into a poor Missouri tenant farmer family, Agnes grew up in a series of Colorado mining camps near the site of the Ludlow massacre. Agnes first became active in Margaret Sanger's birth control movement and withthe Indian nationalist movement in the US. She devoted her life to reporting and supporting the struggles of the poor and the Asian peoples.

On March 18, 1918, she ws arrested for violating the Federal Espionage Act for her international solidarity work on behalf of the Indian Nationalist Party. Imprisoned for her activities, she moved to Germany in 1920.

Her traumatic experiences in the male-dominated Indian nationalist movement resulted in a nervous breakdown. She recovered by writing her autobiographical novel Daughter of the Earth, which has become a feminist classic. Denouncing any emotional dependency on a man, Agnes went to China in 1929 and wrote extensiveley about the oppressed peasantry with special sympathy for the women.

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